The Wildcats allowed a TOTAL of 141 rushing yards in their last two games, although they were against Kansas and Baylor. Kansas State also held Texas to a 2.6-yard rushing average in a game in early October. If Coach Bill Snyder's team can shut down ISU's running attack, it could be a very long day in Ames. Very long. Advantage: KANSAS STATE.
ISU pass offense vs. Kansas State pass defense: Who will start at quarterback for the Cyclones? Austin Flynn? He's been inconsistent this season—just like any freshman would be—but has managed to throw for 1,159 yards and run for 365 more. Or will it be Waye Terry? WHO? The junior QB must have been about eighth on the depth chart a month ago.
Either way, the Cyclones can't afford to turn the ball over. Unfortunately, one of the risks of having an unsettled situation at quarterback is that the guy on the field might gamble a little more than he should to try to prove himself. And turnovers can be a direct result.
Oklahoma State and Colorado both threw effectively against Kansas State. And Baylor was able to gain 161 yards on only 11 completions. So, it is possible to move the ball through the air against the Wildcats. It may not be easy, but it can be done. Advantage: KANSAS STATE.
Kansas State run offense vs. ISU run defense: The Cyclones have done a pretty good job defensively against the run, but with Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles, K-State has a backfield that is as dangerous as any team in the country on the ground.
Sproles has run for 1,099 yards and nine touchdowns this season, with a 6.0-yard average per carry. Roberson—the Wildcat QB—has rushed for 630 yards and 11 scores this season. We've all seen the highlights of these guys making 80-yard sprints to paydirt. Hopefully, we won't see much of that on Saturday in Ames. Advantage: KANSAS STATE.
Kansas State pass offense vs. ISU pass defense: Although he's only completed 53% of his passes, Roberson has an outstanding 152.1 quarterback rating. He's thrown for 1,545 yards, including 16 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. His main target is James Terry, who is also racking up some BIG numbers: 46 catches, 877 yards and nine TDs.
Hopefully, Jordan Carstens and Jason Berryman can put some pressure on Roberson and force him to rush some throws. The Cyclones will need a few turnovers in order to stay in the game into the fourth quarter. Look for Brandon Brown to make a couple of big plays. Advantage: KANSAS STATE.
Special Teams: Obviously, the Cyclones have some issues to resolve in certain phases of special teams. Without question, the Wildcats have worked on schemes to block punts this week. On the plus side for ISU, Tony Yelk is two-for-two on long field goals this season. Hey, it's SOMETHING. Advantage: KANSAS STATE.
Coaching: Dan McCarney has done a tremendous job with the ISU program during the past decade. However, some Cyclone fans are starting to grumble about the lack of victories in the last 12 months. Bill Snyder has worked miracles with the football program in Manhattan, Kansas. In the two seasons prior to his arrival in 1989, K-State was 0-21-1. For the last several seasons, the Wildcats have had one of the top programs in the nation. Advantage: KANSAS STATE.
Intangibles: In the last five meetings between these two teams, the Wildcats are 5-0 with the average score being 49 to 11. Kansas State is tied with Nebraska atop the Big 12 North with a 3-2 conference mark. The Wildcats could be looking ahead to their trip to Lincoln next Saturday. The Cyclones HAVE to play with a chip on their shoulder and jump out to a quick start…something like when Ralph attacks the bully (Scut?) on "A Christmas Story." Advantage: KANSAS STATE.
PREDICTION: Everything seems to be in the Wildcats' favor in this one. However, ISU could receive a boost from Terry at quarterback, for example. All things being equal, the Cyclones will need to play very well defensively, avoid giving up big plays on special teams and finish with a +3 in turnover margin. That might be a little too much to ask for. FINAL: KANSAS STATE 27, IOWA STATE 17.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)